LatPro was started in 1997 by Eric Shannon. Now, you may be thinking, “What the heck is a guy named Shannon doing running a Hispanic job board?” You’re not the first to ask, so we thought we’d let Eric tell you the story himself!
The seeds of LatPro were planted while I was enrolled in the University of South Carolina’s top ranked Master of International Business Studies (MIBS) program. Every student in the program was required to speak a foreign language and complete a six-month internship abroad (in my case, for Avery Dennison in Santiago, Chile and Buenos Aires, Argentina). Prior to entering the program, I spent a year traveling, becoming fluent in Spanish, and falling in love with the natural beauty of Guatemala. In graduate school, I fell in love again… with my future wife Carolina, who was in the same program studying on a Fulbright scholarship and J1 visa (and, coincidentally, she was from Guatemala).
An Idea is Born
After graduating in 1996, I began searching for a very specific employment situation – a job with a U.S. company based near Colombia, South Carolina that wanted me to build its business in Latin America using my Spanish language skills. That job search led me to a surprising discovery — there were no online employment sites specifically for bilingual professionals! That realization led me to the idea for a successful Internet recruiting business that had no competition – a niche job board for Spanish/English and Portuguese/English bilinguals.
A Labor of Love
Starting an Internet business worked out perfectly for us. Carolina (now my fiancée) had landed a management trainee position with Chiquita Brands, which bought us another year in the U.S. before we would have to move to Guatemala to satisfy Carolina’s visa requirement. We relocated to Cincinnati, OH in 1997 so Carolina could work at Chiquita headquarters while I dedicated myself full time to LatPro.
In 1998, Chiquita Brands moved us to Guatemala. We operated LatPro from Guatemala while maintaining an official address and telephone number in Miami. A year later, I convinced my wife to work full time with me at LatPro – a huge milestone for us!
Then in 2000, as the Internet bubble reached its peak, we were able to obtain a waiver for 6 months of Carolina’s J1 home-country time and moved to South Florida to grow the business. With the help of Nate Clement, who had participated in the original business planning back in 1996, we were successful in raising $1 million (USD) early that same year.
This investment allowed us to hire a management team composed entirely of friends from the MIBS program and move into our first real office. It was an exciting time — the business was taking off, we were talking with venture capitalists and LatPro was making a name for itself in the recruiting industry and the media.
Like all other Internet companies, the NASDAQ crash hit LatPro hard. As we struggled to regain our footing, the 9/11 tragedy occurred, severely impacting our business. Our revenue dropped, all of my MBA friends went back to their traditional brick-and-mortar careers, and we set about rebuilding the business.
Fortunately, our customers stuck with us and many talented individuals have joined our team since those difficult years. The new team has won awards, developed a series of diversity job fairs with the National Society for Hispanic Professionals, and expanded LatPro’s partner network to include some of the most prestigious Hispanic organizations in the country.
A Growing Family
Since 1997, LatPro has grown from a start-up business in the corner of an apartment to an industry-leading company with 25 employees from 10 different countries. We have always been on the lookout for new ways to serve our customers and this has brought change.
In 2006 we launched job fairs and DiversityJobs.com, a new Web site to complement LatPro and embrace the larger diversity community. It’s a natural fit for us, since we’ve been living and breathing workforce diversity since the very start of online recruiting.
Then in 2009 we launched JustJobs.com, a family of job search engines which includes diversity sites for Asian Americans, Hispanics, veterans, the disabled and members of the LGBT community. With our new sites we’re just inviting more great people to the table and extending our reach for LatPro’s clients.
So, What’s a Guy Named Shannon Doing Running a Hispanic Job Board?
Though it’s very Latino, LatPro itself has always been a melting pot of diversity. Walking around the LatPro office you are just as likely to hear Spanish and Portuguese conversations as English discussions.
At home, my wife and I speak both Spanish and English with our children. We also visit Guatemala as often as possible to make sure our kids are as connected to their Hispanic heritage, culture and language as they are to their Irish-American side.
Everyone asks what a guy with a last name like Shannon is doing running LatPro.com and now you know the story. My name may not be Hispanic, but my family is and that includes LatPro.